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Lebanon cancels concert by gay-fronted band Mashrou' Leila after religious threats

The band have played frequently in Lebanon since forming in 2008 [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 July, 2019

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Lebanon's Byblos festival has canceled a concert by Lebanese band Mashrou' Leila which was set for next week after calls from church leaders who accused the group of blasphemy.
An upcoming concert by Lebanese indie band Mashrou' Leila has been cancelled, the Byblos International Festival Committee announced on Tuesday, following threats and calls for its cancellation by Christian fundamentalists.

The band, whose singer is openly gay and whose outspoken Arabic lyrics tackle often taboo social issues, were accused of blasphemy by church leaders, who called on cancelling their planned gig at the high-profile summer festival.

"In an unprecedented step, and due to the successive developments, the committee was forced to stop the Mashrou' Leila concert set for Friday, Aug. 9, 2019," a statement released by the committee said.

The statement added that the move came "in order to prevent bloodshed and to maintain security and stability".

"We are sorry for what happened, and apologize to fans," the statement said.

The two offending songs - titled "Idols" and "Djin" - were removed from the planned performance last week.

The band have played frequently in Lebanon since forming in 2008 while studying at the American University of Beirut.

The band issued a statement last week saying they "respected all religions and their symbols", and were saddened by "the distortion of the lyrics of some of our songs".

After a Mashrou' Leila concert in Egypt in 2017, at which members of the audience waved a rainbow flag, the authorities launched a crackdown on the country's LGBT community.

Planned performances by the band in Jordan were cancelled in 2016 and 2017, amid protests by conservative lawmakers.

Religiously diverse Lebanon is one of the Middle East's more liberal countries, but its myriad of recognised sects still wield major influence over social and cultural affairs.

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